Wednesday, April 30, 2014

#1020: Nancy Pearcey

A.k.a. Creationists’ Miss Information

Nancy Randolph Pearcey is an American evangelical author (several articles with Chuck Colson), columnist for Human Events, affiliated with various Bible Colleges, a leading proponent of Dominionism and a prominent creationist. Her dominionism is perhaps best described in her 2004 book, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, which teaches readers how to implement the idea that a Biblical world view should suffuse every aspect of one’s life and how readers need to be extremely cautious with even deliberating ideas from non-Christians. There may “be occasions when Christians are mistaken on some point while nonbelievers get it right,” she says; “[n]evertheless the overall systems of thought constructed by nonbelievers will be false – for if the system is not built on Biblical truth, then it will be built on some other ultimate principle.” Interestingly and tellingly Michele Bachmann claimed it was a “wonderful book”.

Pearcey is also a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, where she has had the primary responsibility for promoting the intelligent design movement’s viewpoint through op-eds for journals and magazines (especially Marvin Olasky’s World magazine), and contributed to the infamous ID textbook Of Pandas and People. Pearcey has no scientific credentials, of course, but she has a personal relationship with Jesus so the lack of scientific credentials does not seem to matter too much to the Discotute or her fellow creationists. She also possesses the Intelligent Design promoters’ usual problems with distinguishing what she’s involved in from pure religion (officially, of course, the Discotute is not a religious institution). In her 1994 book, co-written with Charles Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy she used her scientific background to explain how information theory leads to God and the end of evolution, in the process proudly flaunting her complete lack of idea what information theory is (hence her nickname).

Recently she has devoted some intellectual efforts also to LGBT issues, calling homosexuality the “denigration of physical anatomy” (she does have a way with words, which is completely insensitive to what those words actually mean) and attacking the claim that sexual orientation is not a lifestyle choice. Since sexual orientation is a lifestyle choice, according to Pearcey, marriage equality will make us lose “the foundation of the American republic.” She has also written on the topic for the WND, where she argues that anatomy has “intrinsic dignity” and that scientists today believe in Cartesian substance dualism.

Nancy’s husband Rick is also a moderately prominent creationist and an awfully silly one. He doesn’t like gays either. When McDonald’s decided not to discriminate against gays, Rick Pearcey claimed that  “McDonald’s has decided, apparently, to declare war on my family. And to declare war on the civilization of liberty, independence, creativity, and humanity under God that my Dad fought for in World War II.” Which might be among the most embarrassingly idiotic things anyone has ever said. He followed it up with the rhetorical “[w]hy help finance groups that turn their backs on the Declaration of Independence, the Founding vision, and the living Creator who holds it all together?” And he concluded that Chick-Fil-A was a better choice because they like “real families” (that would be “real families™”), “not ones made up by the ACLU last Tuesday.” Indeed.

Diagnosis: Your standard dishonest creationist hack. Pearcey does undoubtedly enjoy some insidious influence, however, and must be considered moderately dangerous.

#1019: Steve Pearce

Stevan Edward “Steve” Pearce is the U.S. Representative for New Mexico's 2nd congressional district and your typical wingnut moron. He has promoted himself as a true champion of Christian values, with the usual distortions and lies associated with people who promote themselves that way, for instance claiming that atheists are campaigning to outlaw prayer (a standard Liar for Jesus utterly dishonest spin on the Establishment Clause).

What kind of politician he is can nevertheless probably best be illustrated by his birther sympathies, and at a 2010 event in Los Lunas he refused to say whether he believes Barack Obama is a natural-born U.S. citizen – in response to no one but Karl Rove’s rejection of that idiocy. He has also dismissed environmentalism as the domain of crazies and kooks. And to top if off, Pearce is a creationist, claiming that “[p]eople are declaring that we descended from apes. Now, I know that’s not true.”

Diagnosis: Don’t vote for this guy, New Mexico. Seriously.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#1018: Steve & Erin Pavlina

Both of them - though Internet
rumors have it that there may
be some ... challenges going on
in their relationship at present.

Steve Pavlina is a life coach and personal development advisor, most famous for his book Personal Development for Smart People, which rather obviously deals with matters beyond his expertise and is – equally obviously – not targeted at smart people, but rather at the Dunning-Kruger quartile unable to see that they are not. On his website, and in his book, Pavlina amply demonstrates how crank magnetism sometimes works by personal example, and both are filled with substantial amounts of crazy (though he evidently doesn’t like that being pointed out to him).

Pavlina is for instance a champion of raw foodism and water fluoridation conspiracies. He also rejects science as a method for gaining knowledge about health issues, since science tends to disagree with him on said issues. The official reason is primarily that big pharma is in a conspiracy against him and some relativism bullshit, including the point that science was wrong before, as well as tacit Galileo gambits – Pavlina is, as most cranks, fond of Kuhn (whom he doesn’t understand). And note to cranks: even on Feyerabend’s view it makes no sense to claim that scientific consensus is wrong and your views represent a new paradigm – part of the nature of relativism is the commitment to the idea that if you disagree with consensus, then since consensus decides truth, it means that you are wrong – by definition. Not so in Pavlina’s mind: “The Scientific Method is a tool, and like any other tool it has limits. It is a tool for studying objective reality, and within that domain, it’s indomitable. But it’s a worthless tool for studying subjective reality. So if you want to study the possibility that reality is thought-created – that observer and observer are inseparably connected – then you can’t use the Scientific Method.” Well, ok. You can’t use the scientific method for that, I suppose. Of course, you can’t use any other method either, but that doesn’t stop Pavlina from trying. Indeed, Pavlina promotes something he calls “intention-manifestation”, which is pretty much this.

There is a website devoted to him here, and a decent takedown here.

Erin Pavlina, Steve’s ex-wife, is a psychic, New Age guru and lightworker, famous for promoting modern belief in “spirit guides”. Spirit guides, imaginary friends for adults, are psychic magic-beings who can apparently not interfere with your free will, but may nudge you in the right direction. According to Erin Pavlina, before the 9/11 events many people were ‘nudged’ by their spirit guides not to arrive at the buildings on that day, despite the fact that statistically speaking it doesn’t look that way. Pavlina, however, complains that some of the victims of 9/11 probably became victims because they “used logic to override their intuition” to stay away. See how bad things may turn out if you follow logic rather than intuition! The guides of the terrorists, however, “were definitely attempting to get their charges to stop their plan, just like any guide would of anyone planning murder.” Spirit guides are incredibly moral, but unfortunately terrorists rely so heavily on logic that the guides don’t stand a chance.

Pavlina offers a training course for $3000, in which you can learn how to contact your spirit guides and how to read people’s chakras. But by visiting her website you can, for free, learn how to “raise your vibrations” (here, though it is not recommended); you can measure it by intuition, but be careful: logic and reason may break the spell.

Diagnoses: Dense cranks, both of them. To be avoided at all costs.

#1017: Katie Pavlich

Katie Pavlich is a hardcore global warming denialist and wingnut who regularly contributes to Townhall and makes appearances on Fox News. As expected, Pavlich has little understanding or time for the science behind global warming – or science in general – taking for instance polls showing that the majority of Americans don’t believe that climate change is a threat to be evidence against climate change. Also, the fact that it gets cold in winter means that global warming isa hoax. As so many wingnuts of her kind, she has also promoted the “Rachel Carson banned DDT worldwide” myth.

However, she is most famous for her contributions to gun control debates, pretty much mixing up the debate over gun control with virtually any unrelated issue – the result being some unusually bizarre conspiracy theories and talking points. For instance, she was heavily opposed to the United Nations “Arms Trade Treaty” which would ban trading arms with countries or terrorist groups that would use said weapons to commit genocide or acts of terror, somehow failing to see that the treaty wouldn’t affect American domestic policy on guns. Well, being opposed to the treaty is her prerogative. What puts her stance on that issue in a bizarre light is her – at the same time – obsessed rants about Operation Fast and Furious, in which she accused the Obama administration of purposely selling guns to Mexican cartels as part of Obama’s master plan to get support for more gun control. Her conspiracy theory is laid out in her book Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and Its Shameless Cover-Up, which was praised for instance by the John Birch Society.

Diagnosis: Wingnut conspiracy theorist and science denialist. We’ve encountered some of these before, I think.

Monday, April 28, 2014

#1016: Ron Paul

A lot of people we admire harbor quite a bit of respect for Ron Paul. And indeed, the paleolibertarian Paul has occasionally said intelligent things, and has rather frequently come across as a voice of reason in Congress. Fine. For the purposes of this Encyclopedia, Paul’ political commitments are not the issue, and even granting for the sake of argument that he has been an overall positive force in American politics, we would have a duty to point out his lunatic side as well.

The problem in the case of Ron Paul is largely a matter of his heavy involvement with the Dominionist and Christian Reconstructionist movements. For instance, Paul is a close associate of theocratic madman Gary North (a Paul researcher back in the 70s), who is also the recently appointed North Director of Curriculum Development for Paul’s new homeschooling program (also here). I leave readers to ponder the level of crazy this represents. And although Paul’s policies are far from dominionist at the federal level, his proposed legislations would result in the strengthening of a theocratic agenda by preventing the federal government from stopping establishment of theocratic legislation at the local level. His We the People Act would strip the Federal courts of jurisdiction in cases involving abortion, same-sex marriage, privacy related to sexual behavior, and Establishment Clause issues, leaving them to the states, which is exactly what the Religious Right wants to do. And the thing is: Paul has been rather explicit that theocracies at the local level are part of his deliberate agenda, and has also backed up the idea for instance by lamenting that prayer has been prohibited in schools, a common dishonest religious right trope, and by backing pastor Phillip Kayser, who advocates the death penalty for gays. It seems, in fact, to be not entirely unfair to say that Paul is a dominionist more than he is a libertarian, but that he sees limited government as the primary practical means to theocracy – he wants the church to be strong and the state to be weak: “The Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian ... America, with churches serving as vital institutions that would eclipse the state in importance.”

Since he is a religious extremist, Paul does predictably not have much of an aptitude for science. He is, for instance, a creationist, dismissing evolution as “just a theory” that he does not accept. He is also a climate change denier.

More notably, Paul – an MD – is a heavy promoter of all sorts of medical woo, and has predictably defended the Health Freedom Protection Act, which basically says that quacks should be allowed to lie to their customers without having to fear being held responsible (there is a fine discussion of Paul the quack enabler here). He is also member of the batshit crazy wingnut Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. He is also fond of crazy conspiracy theories, for instance claiming that there is a plot to eliminate American sovereignty and form a single union with Canada and Mexico (yup, the NAFTA superhighway conspiracy); apparently George Bush and Rick Perry are both part of that conspiracy. That theory may have replaced his previous theory that the United Nations is going to take over the Untied States, take away their guns and do away with the Constitution and American currency (which he claimed in this John Birch society-produced video), but who knows.

Diagnosis: At heart a doddering, old, deranged theocrat. There is no way around that conclusion.